March 23, 2013

Greer, Hall Lead WNC to FInal-Game Win

Wildcats, Coyotes Split One-Run Victories

Moral victories don’t mean much to Western Nevada College baseball coach D.J. Whittemore this deep into the 2013 season.

On Saturday, for the third time in four meetings with Scenic West Athletic Conference-leading College of Southern Nevada, the Wildcats lost a one-run game.

“The name of the game is to win,” said Whittemore, whose club lost 4-3 in the opener at John L. Harvey Field in Carson City before bouncing back for a 3-2 victory in game two. “When you lose, it hurts. That’s not what we’re out here to do.”

The Wildcats didn’t let the gut-wrenching defeat impact their focus for the final game of the series. Spencer Greer threw four scoreless innings and Jack Hall scored the deciding run as WNC edged its rivals.

“We’re starting to play better as a team,” Greer said. “We were up real high at the beginning of the season, then went down for a little bit and now we’re going back up, so it will be a good finish.”

WNC remained at .500 in the SWAC with an 8-8 record, while CSN is 13-3.

The Wildcats took a 3-2 lead into the seventh inning in the opening game, but CSN rallied for two runs in its last at-bat for a one-run victory, disappointing the Wildcats and their followers.

“Honestly, playing our rivals like that, that’s really tough, just because they have been back and fourth with us the last seven years,” WNC's Matt Becker said. “It’s just a great competition, great competitors and great games all round. It’s always going to be a close game anytime we play these guys because they are our rivals and they are a good team.”

Becker’s one-out double in the fifth put the Wildcats in position to take their first lead. After Coyote starting pitcher John Conquy intentionally walked Conor Harber, Coyote skipper Nick Garritino went to his bullpen, bringing in Nate Potterf.

Potterf quickly got ahead of Mike Umscheid in the count, but the Wildcats’ sophomore didn’t give in, depositing a two-strike pitch into left. And, with Becker not slowing coming around third, he was able beat the throw from the outfield and dive across the plate for the go-ahead run.

The lead was short-lived.

A one-out single to left by Cory Welch, just in front of Becker, put the tying run on base in the seventh.

“It just goes to show that they have power, so we have to play to their strength,” Becker said. “As outfielders playing deep, we can’t take away their jam jobs or the little bloop hits they get.”

Chad Whiteaker’s ensuing double barely avoided the glove of Becker, sending Welch to third. WNC elected to walk Morgan Stotts to load the bases. Bobby Shiroky kept the Coyotes alive with a sacrifice fly to left, scoring Welch with the tying run.

Thomas Pannone, who entered the game an inning earlier as a pinch-runner, delivered the go-ahead hit, a shot to center, scoring Whiteaker for a 4-3 lead.

Despite working two full counts in the bottom of the seventh, the Wildcats were retired 1-2-3 to end the game.

In the sixth, with Pannone on second base with one out, Whittemore decided to pull starting pitcher Christian Stolo. The move paid off as reliever Evan Parker preserved the 3-2 lead with consecutive groundouts to third baseman Umscheid.

WNC matched the Coyotes’ first-inning score with one of its own. Becker scored on a passed ball after advancing to third base on Umscheid’s infield hit.

“I was happy to see that we put up a run in the first inning after they did because sometimes we come out and struggle to score early on, and we score later on,” Becker said.

Stolo often fell behind the Coyote hitters in the first four innings. It caught up to the freshman left-hander when he gave up two walks and two hits as the Coyotes pushed across the go-ahead run on Stotts’ run-scoring infield single.

Stolo, however, prevented further damage by striking out Sean McCracken with the bases loaded.

WNC manufactured the tying run in the fourth as Conquy began to struggle with his control. Cole Ferguson drew a one-out walk and went to third when Connor Klein outbattled Conquy for a single to right. Klein fouled off several full-count pitches before grounding a ball into right, sending Ferguson to third. But Donald Glover Jr. popped up an attempted bunt to the pitcher for the second out.

CSN catcher Cody Clark, however, made a questionable decision to throw down to second base on Klein’s steal. The throw wound up in center field, allowing Ferguson to easily score from third for a 2-2 tie.

Parker took the loss to drop to 0-2. Stolo worked 5 1/3 innngs, surrendering six hits and two earned runs. Umscheid collected two of the Wildcats’ five hits.

In the second game, WNC broke on top 2-1 in the first inning. Harber and Ferguson delivered RBI singles to right field against CSN starter Pennone.

A wild pitch and infield error in the third inning helped Evan Van Hoosier touch home plate to tie the score at 2.

But the Wildcats responded by scoring the go-ahead run in the fifth. Hall opened the rally with a double to left field and advanced to third on a Tony Roque deep drive to right. A Pannone pitch got past catcher Isaac Shim, allowing Hall to score for a 3-2 lead.

Greer (4-1) relieved Tyler Bennett in the fourth inning and was able to shut down the Coyote attack, allowing just one hit. After what happened in the final inning of the opener, Greer was determined to provide a different outcome.

“Especially after coming in and giving up runs the last few weekends,” Bennett said. “This is really good.”

After solving Pannone early, the left-hander limited the Wildcats to two hits after the first inning. He finished with nine strikeouts, including the side in the sixth.

The Wildcats, 23-13 overall, will travel to College of Southern Idaho for a four-game series March 29-30.

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